Week 74

Second Sunday of Lent

Today I awoke at 6:15 AM and drove about fifty minutes to a small parish where guitars seemed to have been present most of the morning. I figured that the 7:30 AM Mass was my best hope for something halfway decent there, so I headed for that, figuring that it would be a quiet, routine Mass, probably without any music but also lacking in undue innovations. As usual, I was only partially correct.

The parish has two buildings on the property; the latter, built in 1968, is a bland, brown brick auditorium with folding metal chairs in a "90-degree rotation" configuration. This is called the "Large Church;" next door, the original building, known as the "Mother Church," has no cornerstone that I could find (again, it may have been buried behind bushes) but may be a pre-1950's structure. It's kind of hard to tell, as that one has been altered as well. The 7:30 Mass is offered in the original church, which raised my hopes that it would be a bit better than the remainder of the Sunday Masses, which are offered in the newer building.

The old building is a simple, white, peaked rectangular church that may hold 300 or 400 tops if everyone is packed tightly. The wooden pews are split into two sections by a center aisle, and side aisles are also present. The stained-glass windows are abstract, with memorial designations inscribed on them. The sanctuary may have been pulled slightly forward; behind it is a curved partition that conceals the sacristy behind it but leaves some space at either side for access to the sacristy. On that wall hangs a figure of the Risen Christ. The inside is mostly white; the ceiling is light blue ceiling with some darker trim forming squares. A choir loft with an organ is in the usual location at the rear, but I doubt that it sees much use apart from perhaps funerals, considering that other than daily Mass and this 7:30 AM "no music" Mass, all the other Masses (the ones with music) are in the other building.

I arrived a little after 7:25 AM and hurried inside. As I entered, I looked for the tabernacle but was unable to locate it, so I made a bow to the altar before taking a seat at the center of a pew about a third of the way from the front. (Most people already there were near the back.) I speculated that perhaps the tabernacle was in the "Large Church," and the thought was that only one tabernacle was in order-- or perhaps a chapel for the tabernacle was hidden behind the sanctuary wall. The pews are stocked mostly with Glory and Praise and Breaking Bread hymnals and a stray Seasonal Missalette or two.

The Mass began as the reader, three lay ministers of Holy Communion, a priest dressed in a stole, and another priest fully vested emerged from behind the wall. The celebrant, a youngish-looking sort, started by instructing us to "leave our pews" and greet those around us, especially those we don't know, and give our names, and so on and so forth. Ouch. Fortunately, not too many people actually "left their pews." After this, he omitted the penitential rite entirely and proceeded directly to the opening prayer.

Next, the assisting priest, who I would have suspected to be the pastor if his first name matched the pastor's name on the bulletin cover, went to the small ambo at the left and began a solemn, five-minute exhortation on the Liturgy of the Word, which apparently is part of a series of instructions on the parts of the Mass being given at this parish. He quoted at length from the General Instruction on the Roman Missal, which in #9 states that "all who are present should listen to them [the readings] with reverence." This he interpreted emphatically and repeatedly to mean that any other activity is excluded, including reading from a missal. He further stated that the Scriptures are God speaking directly to us, so we really have to give the readings our undivided attention. He concluded this by inviting us to "close our missalettes..."

The reader then gave the first reading, the psalm, and the second reading, not pausing much between them. I had no missalette anyway, so I presume that the readings were from the new Lectionary. Two gentlemen from the congregation went behind the wall and returned with a dish (not a typical incenser, usually on a chain) containing incense; the assisting priest, after holding the Book of Gospels high at the center of the sanctuary, incensed the Book before proclaiming the Gospel.

The homily was delivered by both priests, standing at the front of the sanctuary, one at the left and the other at the center, in a "tag-team" style; the assisting priest began by introducing the celebrant, who is a member of his order and a pastor at a parish in a neighboring diocese. He described the celebrant as "an expert in liturgy-- he's the one we call whenever we have a question on liturgy." They then discussed the Gospel; their main point centered on the fact that Jesus would not allow Peter, James, and John to remain gazing in awe; Jesus immediately led them back down the mountain to get back to work. Thus, Eucharist is not something we contemplate; it is something we "do" through our actions in everyday life. I guess that we can forget about exposition and adoration at this parish.

Somewhere during Mass, perhaps here, perhaps not, I noticed the sanctuary lamp burning over what looked like a decorative wooden plaque of sorts on the wall to the right of the sanctuary. (That's the rear, rear wall, behind the decorative wall I mentioned earlier.) Despite the lamp, I had missed this at first, as it looked like just a decoration rather than a tabernacle. Instead, it was a cabinet flush with the wall, rather easy to miss if one is looking for a more obvious tabernacle. It did have the requisite keys hanging from it, though, so I knew that it had to be the tabernacle.

After the homily, I had some apprehension that the Creed might be omitted. Perhaps this would have been better than what happened instead. The celebrant started to read what initially sounded like an introduction to the Prayer of the Faithful, but turned into an introduction to what passed for a profession of faith. This took the form of several questions, such as "Who is our Lord and Savior?" to all of which we were to reply, "Jesus!" Rest assured that the questions, which naturally I cannot recall in their entirety, did not constitute a renewal of baptismal promises or even anything close to a summary of the Catholic faith. The Prayer of the Faithful was conducted in almost the usual manner, but the priest's prayer at the conclusion was replaced by a group recitation of a very short "renewal prayer" (not the "Renew 2000" prayer) that apparently was found on cards in the pews, none of which was near me as far as I could tell.

A collection was taken using handleless wicker baskets which did not leave the ushers' hands (the pews probably seated nine or ten across at most anyway). I noticed that the celebrant began the Preface to the Eucharistic Prayer with "All powerful and ever-living God..." which seems to omit what might be a significant word at the beginning. (If it were almost any other word, I'd not be suspicious.) The priest used one of the Eucharistic Prayers for a Mass of Reconciliation, which he seemed to offer as it stands. The third Memorial Acclamation was recited. (Note that in sung Masses, the first acclamation is almost always used, so I rarely emphasize that point.) The ciboriums were of metal; I think a glass chalice and a metal chalice (the primary one) were used.

At the Our Father, a noticeable number of people joined hands, but it was far from a universal practice, and those adjacent to me were content to leave well enough alone. Either way, the priest did not make an issue of it. At Communion, the three lay ministers assisted the celebrant in the distribution as the second priest sat in the front pew. The chalice was offered; stations were located in the typical positions at the center aisle, with the ministers offering the chalice at the sides.

After Holy Communion, the reader went to the ambo and read one brief announcement. The celebrant omitted the Prayer after Communion and then imparted a simple blessing before joining the closing procession down the center aisle with the reader, lay ministers of Holy Communion, and the other priest, ending at the main doors where they remained to greet those leaving.

After that, I visited a nearby parish to collect a bulletin; Communion was being distributed at the 8 AM Mass. The Communion hymn there was "How Great Thou Art." At two other parishes, bulletins had been confiscated before my arrival, so I was unsuccessful, although one of those parishes has the bulletin posted inside a locked glass case, so at least I was able to verify the Mass and confession schedules.

* * * * * * * * * * *

"Well, Father, I really appreciate you coming all the way out here to say Mass for us."

"It was my pleasure."

"I hope you'll be able to come to our parish again soon."

"I'll try to make time."

"Hang on a moment; let me get that."


"ABC is on the phone for you-- the staff is researching another liturgical question for the 'Millionaire' program."

"Okay, thanks-- I forgot to tell you that they call me too when they need a liturgical expert."

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